Recent conversations with my clients have reminded me of the complexities of our everyday lives. There are endless roles to be executed and things to be done, and we all have too many priorities and not enough time. It can leave us feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. In addition to this, we are faced with having to ‘succeed’ (whatever that means) and feel fulfilled while constantly being on the run.
My client Christina (not her real name), told me that she constantly feels like she is not enough. Like many of us, she is juggling her career while raising her children, being a wife, taking care of her elderly parents, wanting to be a supportive friend, and trying to contribute to society at large. She feels like no matter what she does it is not enough.
An Endless To-Do List
Our careers bring with them an endless to-do list that seems to never leave enough space for what is truly important (though maybe not urgent), including time to learn things that fall outside of our comfort zones, and mentoring others. Add to this our roles at home, our household chores, taking care of our elderly parents, supporting our friends, and perhaps our desire to contribute to society by volunteering. We are also faced with the idea that we should be happy and fulfilled every day. We are putting ourselves in an impossible spot if we believe that we must do all of this perfectly and be successful in every role that we play in our lives. It is exhausting and it turns into an endless cycle of never enough.
It would be fantastic if there was a formula that would permit us to be our best selves all of the time – always productive and always present in every moment of our days. The reality is that:
- By definition human beings are imperfect. All of us. One exercise that I love to do with my clients involves drawing two large circles on a piece of paper and then putting a large AND in between them. I ask them to write a list of things that they like about themselves in one circle and things that they dislike about themselves in the other. It is not easy for many of us, but the liberation that we feel when we understand that we are both magnificent and flawed is worth it.
- Perfection doesn’t exist. Perfection is an unachievable goal. The moment that we achieve something, we immediately look at what else we can accomplish or how we could have improved. Perfectionism causes us to procrastinate and lose confidence in our abilities.
- Doing more causes burnout. To be more fulfilled and more productive we often need to do less rather than do more. Our minds and bodies need to recharge in order to be able to cope with stress and challenges. We are wired to need sleep, to need downtime, and to connect with ourselves and others.
- There is more than one definition of success. Success is a big scary word. Many of us never stop to ask ourselves how we define success. Success needs to be tied to our personal values and what is important to us.
- We play many different roles in our lives. We have a title at work, we are parents, siblings, children, friends, partners, peacekeepers, challengers, problem-solvers…………… The list is long and we need to understand that at different moments in our lives some of our roles will demand more attention and time than others.
- We are supposed to feel happy and fulfilled at all times. I am passionate about what the science of positive psychology can teach us, but I believe it has been misinterpreted and has made many people feel overwhelmed and unhappy. Humans have a wide range of feelings, many of them uncomfortable. Allowing ourselves to feel all of our emotions is essential to feeling happier and more content.
Breaking The Cycle
How do we find balance and prioritize what is important to us in order to break the cycle of never enough?
I invite you to keep a few things in mind:
- You will be imperfect in all of your roles. Instead of striving for perfection, be satisfied with good enough. Good enough can be fantastic! I invite you to feel proud of yourself for being good enough. Remember that all of us are imperfect.
- Work-life balance is personal and it is a constant balancing act. There is no right or wrong way to achieve work-life balance. The balance that we need will change at different times in our lives and it will never be perfect. It is in constant movement and will be derailed at times as we pay more attention to different things. The most important thing to remember is that your balance only has to work for you.
- Prioritize by learning to say NO more often. Setting boundaries and saying NO is necessary in order to find balance. Boundaries are based on our values and needs, and when we set clear boundaries we help ourselves as well as the people around us.
- Pay attention to the small moments in life. Appreciating what we accomplish and paying attention to small things that make us feel good about ourselves is imperative. Sometimes being able to accomplish what we want means that we need to slow down and do less rather than do more.
- Trust yourself. Trust your instincts, trust yourself, and ask for support when you feel stuck. I believe that we are all resourceful and whole, but we need support sometimes in order to find the answers that we need.
Whether we like it or not, there are only 24 hours in a day. Time passes quickly, and we need to remember to embrace today. Your imperfect, challenging, and wonderful journey is what is happening today. Enjoy the mess, enjoy the imperfection, and if you are stuck find the support that you deserve in order to create a balance that works for you!
This article was originally published on Charity Village in April 2022.